Metro Optics: 100G Is the New 10G

Feb. 26, 2014
100G optics are poised to begin "unseating the workhorse technology" of the past decade - 10G - i...
100G optics are poised to begin "unseating the workhorse technology" of the past decade - 10G - in the metro arena if costs drop as expected, said Andrew Schmitt, principal analyst, optical, for Infonetics Research. If that happens, the transition to metro 100G will begin inside 2016.

"The next couple of years are important for vendor evaluations and decisions, but the real volume doesn't start to hit until 2016," Schmitt said during a webinar, "100G in the Metro: When and Where Will It Be Economical?"

Infonetics' data and an impromptu poll during the session indicated that the biggest challenge today for 100G in the metro market is the cost of optics, followed by the cost of 100G router cards. What makes sense for the long haul doesn't make sense for shorter distances, said Scott Wilkinson, senior director, technical marketing, MRV Communications (PINKSHEETS:MRVC).

"We need the standardization of 100G," Wilkinson said. "100G pluggable optics will allow (the industry) to bring prices in line."

Despite this barrier, an Infonetics' survey of service providers indicated that while in 2013 they collectively expected around 50% of their long-reach WDM installs to be 10G, by 2016 the tide will shift to 100G, which is expected to account for around 62%. "10G will play a major role in metro for some time, but the role starts to turn over right around 2016," Schmitt said. "Metro 100G will triple between 2013 and 2015."

In regards to metro 100G technology, service providers aren't necessarily looking for the next big thing. What they want is lower cost 100G hardware that is identical to what they are using in long-haul. "They are not looking for 'whiz bang.' They just want something cheaper. Technology is not a differentiator in metro unless it lowers cost," Schmitt said.

The Holy Grail of pluggable 100G optics, so to speak, is coherent optics, which is single wavelength DWDM, tunable, with extended distances and no dispersion issues. These solutions could offer speeds up to 8 Tbps per fiber. While products will be available during the third quarter of this year, they will still be expensive. "Because they use advanced optical tech ... it has been hard to get them down to the size of pluggable optics," Wilkinson said.

There is an intermediate four DWDM metro optics solution, where each wavelength runs at approximately 25G per second. It is possible to reach 2 Tbps per fiber and is "significantly" less expensive than coherent, with fixed versions available at five to six times the price of 10G optics. "What's more important is they are available now," Wilkinson said.

Reliability-driven service providers favor port density, while application- and content-driven data centers are more concerned with cost per port. What may happen is the former may have enough capacity and choose to wait for coherent optics, while data centers may decide they could benefit from the interim 2 Tbps of data the metro optics solution can provide now, Wilkinson said.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].